Japanese oil demand jumped up m/m by over 0.5 mb/d to 4.33 mb/d, more than the usual seasonal upswing, led by kerosene demand rising above 0.4 mb/d for the first time since February this year, up m/m by 0.19 mb/d but in line with seasonal norms. Kerosene was not the only source of improvement, with naphtha, fuel oil, diesel and gasoline also all up noticeably m/m and LPG demand touched a seven-month high of 0.49 mb/d. As a result, Japanese demand moved into positive y/y growth territory of 92 thousand b/d for the first time this year, despite coal continuing to gain market share in power generation. While the pick-up in economic activity will have supported, the November figures come at odds with the warmer than usual start to the winter. In fact, figures for Japan's top 10 utilities showed electricity generation falling by 0.5% y/y and fuel and crude burn down y/y by 50 thousand b/d and 0.12 mb/d respectively. However, overall demand came in stronger, with crude burn a touch higher y/y and fuel oil lower y/y by 65 thousand b/d. In line with the latest numbers, heading into 2014, y/y declines in Japanese demand should ease as the period of coal substitution that began in late Q4 12 becomes the new base.
Japanese refinery runs rebounded m/m by a sharp 0.45 mb/d as scheduled TARs ended and margins improved. This takes Japanese runs higher y/y by around 0.3 mb/d owing to a heavy maintenance schedule weighing on runs in 2012. As a result, crude imports also picked up by 0.54 mb/d to 3.72 mb/d, an eight-month high, higher y/y by 0.44 mb/d, although imports from Iran fell below 0.1 mb/d to the lowest levels since April 2013.